Archive for June, 2008

The DUI Double Standard

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

In the who-will-guard-the-guardians department:


Ex-Detective Gets More Jail Time in Alcohol Cases

Seattle, WA.  June 27  -  A former Seattle police detective who set a breath-test record was sentenced to more than a year in jail and three months in home detention for a series of alcohol-related driving cases, two of which involved minor crashes…

Last year, Jarrett briefly held the unenviable record of the highest blood-alcohol concentration in state history when she measured 0.47 on a State Patrol breath test…

Jarrett has already served more than 300 days in home detention and about 60 days in jail. She spent the past two weeks in jail after she apparently relapsed, breaking a court order to stay away from alcohol.

She now must serve 440 more days in jail, though she could get time off for good behavior and will be allowed to serve most of that time in a work-release program.

“I think she struggles with a disease that has been winning,” (Judge David Steiner) said…


Hmmm…At least three DUIs involving two car crashes, two probation violations and a record 0.47% blood-alcohol level.  What do you think your sentences would have been?  Home detentions and work release programs?  Or very long stretches of hard time?

Funny how prosecutors and judges suddenly see it as a “disease” when the drunk driver is a cop.  Of course it’s a disease (see The DUI Problem and Time for a Change), but where is that compassion when the defendant isn’t a cop?

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Breathalyzers Soon Mandatory for All Cars

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I’ve written repeated posts in the past about the highly unreliable ignition interlock devices (IIDs) which have been widely publicized by MADD as the way to “eliminate drunk driving once and for all”.  See, for example, The Truth About Ignition Interlock Devices, Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable and New MADD Goal: All Cars Equipped with Breathalyzers

Although these crude in-car breathalyzers are now required in many states for repeat offenders, MADD is promoting them as mandatory equipment for all future vehicles.   Toyota, GM and Saab already have these devices near completion for installation at the factories.  See, Toyota Announces DUI-Proof Cars,  All U.S. Cars to Have Ignition Interlock Devices? and The Car in Your Future.

Technical deficiencies aside, the following editorial from the National Motorists Association offers thoughts about the ramifications of this latest mandatory “safety feature”:


Mandatory In-Car Breathalyzers Coming?

If you’re not a convicted drunk driver, should you still be required to have an in-car breathalyzer fitted (at your expense, ‘natch) to your next new vehicle?

Apparently, some automakers — including GM and Toyota — think so. They and a few others are working together under the auspices of something called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which is a $10 million federal “research program” that is trying to develop just such technology for mass introduction a few years from now.

At the moment, the only people who have to deal with (and pay for) in-car Breathalyzers are convicted drunks; the devices are basically ignition locks that prevent the vehicle’s engine from being started until the would-be driver blows into the tube and the system determines he’s not liquored up.

But by 2012 or so, in-car breath sniffers could be standard equipment in every new vehicle sold, force-fed to you by the tag team of Washington, Detroit and, of course, the ever-busy Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

No conviction necessary…

I dislike drunk drivers as much as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (is anyone actually for drunk driving)? But I certainly do object to policies and regulations that impose cost and hassle and arguably, petit tyranny, on people who have done absolutely nothing to warrant it.

This isn’t about nannyism so much as it is about upending a few basic bedrock Western ideas about criminal justice, rights and responsibilities. Chief among these being that each of us gets treated as a specific individual.

If we do something wrong, we get specifically held accountable for it;  the guy next door who had nothing to do with it isn’t dragged along for the ride. But that’s just what is happening here — indeed, has already happened — from those so-called “sobriety checkpoints” (which mostly “check”  perfectly sober drivers) to the growing kudzu of “primary enforcement” seat belts laws that pester (and ticket) people for not wearing a seat belt, an action that may not be especially smart on an individual level but which has very little to do with the safety or well-being of others

People used to get that; today, most don’t seem to. It’s the only way to explain the tsunami-like effectiveness of the word, “safety” — which doesn’t have to be specifically defined, quantified, subjected to cost-benefit analysis or throttled back by the once-superior claim of the individual’s “personal bubble of authority” — where he or she formerly reigned supreme, free of the suffocating and endless edicts of others who claim their evaluation of a perceived risk trumps your personal right to choose.

Just say “safety” (and for added emphasis, include “our children”) and no objection can be sustained…


To more fully appreciate how obtrusive these devices are — and how many things can go wrong — see a Japanese TV newscast (English language) on YouTube about Toyota’s IID.


(Thanks to Andre)

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Anatomy of a DUI Lynching

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

American citizens are considered to be innocent until proven guilty – unless it involves  drunk driving, in which case a MADD-inspired hysteria takes over. Consider the following news story..

Larchmont, NY.  June 10 – Mike Mezansky, a former star Mamaroneck High School baseball player accused of driving drunk and hitting a child, said his legal problems took a back seat to the more immediate concerns of the 9-year-old victim.

“My heart goes out to the family,” Mezansky said yesterday, when he answered the door to his home just down the street from Friday’s crash site. “I’ll deal with the legalities of everything, but the main thing is the kid being OK. That’s all I can say.”

The boy, William Powers, suffered a head injury, broken legs, bruised lungs and other wounds. He is at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and has been breathing with the help of a ventilator…

He is accused of striking the child on Magnolia Avenue at 7:45 a.m. The boy had just seen his sister onto a Bee-Line bus, then crossed in front of it to head home. That’s when the white Lexus pulled out from behind the bus and struck the boy, police said.

Police detected alcohol and arrested the teen after he failed a series of field sobriety tests. He refused a Breathalyzer test, police said, and they asked for a court order to test his blood.

The results of that test are not yet known, police said today…

Here are some of the letters to the editor that followed:

Who gives a 19 year-old a Lexus? How did the 19 year-old get alcohol? Why is a 19 year-old drunk at 7:30 in the morning?  What the hell kind of parenting goes on in the Mezansky household?!?

OK MAYBE I AM NUTS BUT IS THIS ARTICLE SAYING THAT THIS LOW LIFE ISNT IN JAIL? UN REAL AND HIS HEART GOES OUT TO THE FAMILY….PLEASE IF I WAS THAT KIDS FATHER OUR LITTLE DRUNK DRIVING LOW LIFE WHO COMES FROM A GOOD FAMILY WOULDNT MAKE IT TO COURT…IT MAKES ME SICK HOW WEAK THE DWI LAWS ARE….SO NO PITTY FOR THIS LOW LIFE SHOULD OF CALLED A CAB…..

Sounds like a punk who’s parents give him everything he wants and thought he was immune to the world, on his way to making millions in baseball and thought he was untouchable. Drunk or not, he learned one hell of a life lesson right now and maybe mommy and daddy will wise up and not give a 19 year old punk Lexus.

Was the driver drunk? Yes. I don’t want to hear about the bus driver, or anything else. The reason this boy is in critical condition with injuries that he will never totally heal from, IF he lives… is because this moron drove drunk…at 7:45 in the morning.

We need to get our political representatives to take control of these horrendous happenings by enacting laws which are meaningful and punitive.

He refused a breathalizer test? Seems like a great guy huh? By the way, where was he drinking? Who was he drinking with? If at a house, the parents should be arrested as well. If at a bar, the bartender arrested.

I really don’t care if he was an alter boy all his life. You don’t get a pass on this one buddy. You may have murdered a child due to your reckless behavior, you at least injured him for life. It is Mezanskys fault that this child is on life support instead of going to the pool this summer. Instead of going to summer camp with his twin brother, he will be in the hospital or dead.

Before everyone passes judgement on the driver, lets all wait till the blood alcohol test comes back… 

And now for the follow-up news story:

Larchmont, NY, June 18 -  A drunken-driving charge against a Larchmont teen accused of running over a 9-year-old boy with his car last week was reduced after a blood test came back showing that the teen’s blood-alcohol level after the accident was zero…

Did that stop the hysterical letters?  Following are a few written after news of the .00% blood test was made public:

You hit a child, put him in a coma, and its a traffic violation. A real poster child for responsible driving. Someone got paid off to make this go away; and he will do it again because he got away with it. Nothing but a non remorseful punk!

Daddy or mommy got this kid off, it’s not what you know it’s who you know.

How fast was this kid going anyway to do the damage that he did to the boy – it was 7:45am in the morning, was the sun not out? Ask the little boy if knowing that his assailant will remember this day always if that makes him feel better…

The man is a drunk hick with a lil bit of money..that’s whats keepin him outta prison..bottom line..point blank

This punk kid who at the age of 18 was as they say "driving while ability impaired" in my book that’s DRUNK sorry kid. No sympathy for you or your parents, who probably know that you’ve done this before.

Why did he refuse a breath test? and a field sobriety test? We all know why… sue, sue, sue!!!… he might beat the DWI, but he should have his pockets emptied.

Let’s just remember something…the legal drinking age is 21! This kid is 18…any amount of alcohol is too much!!!! He still needs to face the music.

Obviously this kid has some good connections….you don’t fail sobriety tests when your sober.

Fortunately, there are still a few who give me hope:

Regarding the recent accident in Larchmont in which 18-year-old driver Mike Mezansky hit a 9-year-old boy, now that we know the young driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.00, we would do well to remember that persons accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty…The young driver was therefore as entitled to the presumption of innocence as any other defendant. Unfortunately, some had all but convicted him before he had even been arraigned, let alone tried. Amazingly, the attacks are continuing even as I write this letter.


(Thanks to David Baker)

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MADD “Statistics” Again Debunked

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

As I’ve posted repeatedly in the past, MADD’s prohibitionist zealots are fond of twisting statistics to justify their expansion of unfair laws, Draconian penalties and unconstitutional procedures.  See, for example, A Closer Look at DUI Fatality StatisticsMADDness and Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Statistics.

The truth is finally beginning to emerge:


A Reality Check on DUI Claims 

Groups purposely misstate fatalities

to further an anti-drinking agenda

The Tennessean, June 22 — Drunken-driving stories, like last week’s op-ed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative Alexanderia Honeycutt, make headlines every day.

Groups like MADD relentlessly remind Americans that the abuse of alcohol continues to be a huge problem on our roadways and, as a result, the most drastic measures are needed. Though truly "drunken" driving is a serious issue, much of the reported problem is little more than PR.

 Consider fatality statistics. The number of deaths that activist groups attribute to drunken driving is grossly exaggerated.

Last year, federal statisticians classified almost 18,000 deaths as "alcohol-related." However, alcohol-related does not mean alcohol-caused. In fact, that figure includes anyone killed in a crash in which at least one person (driver, pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) was estimated to have any alcohol. (If a sober driver recklessly crashes into and kills a family whose driver had enjoyed a glass of wine, statistics reflect all their deaths as "alcohol-related.")

In reality, the figure reflects a much broader spectrum of casualties: people under the legal limit, drunken pedestrians, impaired cyclists and others. After accounting for those people, actual innocent victims only make up 12 percent of the widely reported statistic — a considerably smaller amount than activists have led us to believe.

The anti-alcohol lobby has also invented fantastical talking points to bolster their bunk traffic stats. Honeycutt uses one of its favorites ("first offenders drive drunk on average 87 times before they are caught"), going so far as to accuse individuals of criminal acts with absolutely no proof to back up the claim.

The truth is that this widely publicized figure comes from rough estimates of self-reported data — commonly criticized as unreliable. Collected from a small sample almost 13 years ago, even the study’s own authors admit the estimates are "crude."


As I posted a couple of years ago, an independent study by the Los Angeles Times  found that despite federal figures claiming nearly 18,000 deaths caused by drunk driving in 2002, only about 5,000 of these actually involved a drunk driver causing the death of a sober driver, passenger or pedestrian.

MADD has used the same altered statistics to get all 50 states – with some federal coercion – to lower the legal limit to .08% and to expand the use of roadblocks:


In the 1990s, these groups used another "crude" statistic to convince the public that reducing the legal blood-alcohol content limit from 0.10 to 0.08 percent would save 600-800 lives annually. Today, research proves it didn’t work.

Their 0.08 push failed to have any measurable effects on traffic fatality rates. It only lowered the threshold for qualifying as a "drunken" driver, ignoring the fact that the majority of "drunks" wreaking havoc on our roads drive while more than double the 0.08 limit. One study in Contemporary Economic Policy concluded that 0.08 efforts would have been better spent encouraging effective measures against chronic drunken drivers.

Tennessee’s anti-alcohol groups aren’t heeding that warning. Instead, they’re demanding more funding, more legislation and more manpower for other misguided measures, like sobriety checkpoints.

These roadblocks are based on the idea that it’s more important to look "tough on drunken driving" than to actually go after the drunks. Checkpoints don’t catch many (if any) drunken drivers. In the largest program ever studied, Tennessee ran almost 900 checkpoints over the course of a year, stopping almost 150,000 of the state’s drivers. The result: a mere 773 DUI arrests — less than one arrest per checkpoint. Compare that to the impact of roving police patrols — a tactic that catches 10 times more drunken drivers than roadblocks.

But you won’t hear anti-alcohol activists like Honeycutt repeat that stat. Their groups no longer target "drunken" drivers, aiming instead to eliminate any drinking before driving.

Right now, the 176 million responsible Americans who drink in moderation can still safely (and legally) drive home after enjoying a drink. Furthermore, research shows that drivers who talk on cell phones, drive drowsy, or travel 7 mph above the speed limit pose a larger threat than those who enjoy a few drinks (and stay below 0.08) before driving home.

Disregarding the evidence, the anti-alcohol movement’s invented, inflated and distorted "facts" would have the public believe that there should be no legal limit except zero. This is the reason we all think one thing when the reality is another.

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DUI Laws Overrule Scientific Truth

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

It is an unfortunate fact that law and politics repeatedly trump science when it comes to prosecuting citizens accused of drunk driving…..  

In People v. Bransford, to cite one notable example, the California Supreme Court was confronted with a defendant who was challenging his DUI conviction on the grounds that he was not permitted to offer scientific evidence to the jury. Specifically, he was not permitted to offer the testimony of recognized experts that the breath machine’s computer was programmed to assume that there were 2100 parts of alcohol in his blood for every 1 part it measured in his breath.

He was also prevented by the trial judge from offering further evidence that this 2100:1 ratio was only an average — and that the actual ratio varied widely from person to person, and within one person from moment to moment.  If, for example, a suspect’s ratio had been 1500:1 at the time he blew a .10% on the machine, his true blood-alcohol would have actually been .07% — that is, he would have been innocent.

The Supreme Court of California affirmed the conviction, however, ruling that such scientific facts are irrelevant: the law was written in a way that concerned the amount of alcohol in the blood â€as measured on the breath”. In a display of either twisted logic or ignorance of the scientific facts involved, the Court simply said that the crime consisted of the amount of alcohol in the blood — but only as measured on the breath. In other words, although the crime is having .08% alcohol in the blood, you can’t offer evidence about the amount of alcohol actually in the blood!

An amazing decision. More interesting, perhaps, is language in the opinion — an opinion which gives us a window into the justices’ minds. In what must have been a complete failure to appreciate the significance of what they were writing, the Court justified its ruling in a rather frank — and incredible — admission of its hidden agenda:

It will increase the likelihood of convicting such a driver, because the prosecution need not prove actual impairment…Adjudication of such criminal charges will also require fewer legal resources, because fewer legal issues will arise. And individuals prosecuted under such a statute will be less likely to contest the charges.  People v. Bransford, 8 Cal.4th 894 (1994).

In other words, preventing an accused from defending himself with scientific truth serves justice by making it easier to get convictions!

Are all judges oblivious to the truth? Not entirely. One judge, Justice Joyce Kennard, dissented from the majority opinion. Recognizing the truth, she wrote in a separate opinion:

The majority…has on its own created the new crime of driving with alcohol in one’s breath.

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